This is a revised version of a short story I began in 2019. You may read the original version of the story here, if you so desire to see how the story is beginning to evolve. Otherwise, please enjoy the new version. Updates to the remaining parts of the story to follow… stay tuned.
There isn’t anything out here. I mean, obviously, there’s a lot out here but none of it’s useful for what we’re looking for. The last of the Elders who lived on Earth died out decades ago. We’ve been on this ship for so long, generations of us have never breathed real air or felt the warmth of the sun our Elders liked to talk about. Even in their time, Earth was dying.
The Elders always said there was a time you could be outside on Earth and just exist. They had pictures of people with no protective gear on, just standing in the grass, bare feet and all. I’ve never seen grass… well not real grass anyway.
When the Earther’s realized the sun was beginning to die, they started to build the Ship. They knew there were lots of planets outside of Earth that could sustain us. They called it the Great Migration. While it wasn’t the first time human’s left their planetary home, it was the first time we left the solar system. In the earliest days, we walked on Mars. After Mars became so toxic the surface burned, we left for Earth; determined we wouldn’t mutilate it the way we had mutilated Mars.
We underestimated the wild force of Earth and it was difficult in those early days, by all accounts. The earth seemed intent on killing us, whether it was because of the weather or the seemingly infinite number of animals, angry about our invasion. In the end, it was the kind Neanderthals who helped us acclimate to our new world. We thanked them by murdering most of them but not before procreating and weaving Earth DNA into our own.
It would be centuries until humans would rediscover our history on Mars. It was profound to humans, who had built up a fantasy of being of Earth, building ideas around inflated stories of their past selves. Darkness fell over humans as they tried to reconcile their faith with the truth of what laid before them.
When the winters stopped, humans realized the dire state of the Earth’s ecosystem. They fought endlessly with each other in hopes to save the planet they had destroyed in the same way they destroyed Mars. In the end, the trash consumed them and the ecosystem spiraled out of control. The ice caps melted, killing off a multitude of life forms and flooding much of the planet. Meanwhile, political and social turmoil was tearing apart the fabric that kept humans functioning cohesively. In their fear, anger, and terror, their leaders, having gone insane released nuclear bombs across the planet, plummeting the planet into nuclear winter, as debris clouded the atmosphere and blocked their beloved sun.
Those of us on the ship left long before this happened, however. There was a screening process back then. They understood it couldn’t just be the elite of the elite on the ships, they needed doctors, and engineers, farmers, creatives and scientists, and a whole community of people to keep the Ship running and to navigate through space. They also needed to ensure those on the Ship could mentally handle a possibly endless journey through space.
It was decided that 600 people on the ship were needed to run it, and ensure enough genetic diversity to continue the species. We lost communication with Earth when my grandmother was a teenager, the sun had been expanding, roasting anything left on Earth that might’ve survived. Any remaining humans had retreated underground but the sun would consume the Earth completely. I supposed we could always go back and see the red giant formerly known as the sun but why would anyone want to go to the boondocks of space anyway?
We ran out of the known universe a long time ago and have no idea what else is out there. We’ve just been wandering around since anything we thought we know, was mostly wrong. I’ve read journals from ancient humans, wondering about life outside of Earth. They always said there must be because otherwise, it seems so lonely to be on a rock in a vacuum and be the only somewhat intelligent thing in all of space. I’d rather be lonely on a rock than the Ship because at least then, you had a home; a place you belong to. Now, we are just refugees of time.
The makers of the Ship knew it could take generations to find a new home. They didn’t want the remaining humans to get distraught or lose hope and so they created the Simulation to mimic the Earth from any point in its history, to mask the structure of the otherwise dull appearance of the ship and darkness of space. You could choose to live in the Simulation or outside of it in reality.
Old humans used to dream about the days of seeing all the beauty in space but now, we just dream about the beauty of Earth. I wish they knew what an amazing gift it was. Nothing would’ve stopped the sun, but they ruined it long before the sun was ever a problem.
I hate feeling so trapped. On Earth, you could always go somewhere that you’d never been before. It just wasn’t possible to see everything in one lifetime. On a Ship, there’s only so many places to go and space is mostly the same with interesting things light-years apart. I think we’ll go insane if we aren’t already.
Sam says I’m too obsessed with Earth. He doesn’t understand how you ache for something you’ve never even seen in real life, which is very rich, coming from him. I tried to explain to him, that we aren’t designed for space. I told him one day we’d even forget we ever lived on Earth. There are children, living in the Simulation who don’t even realize it isn’t what our existence is. I guess the new thought is children should experience the joys of an Earth-like childhood to avoid childhood depression at the reality of the emptiness we have on the Ship. Personally, when I found out about the Simulation as a teenager, it destroyed me. I had all these memories of a life that never actually happened outside of my head. Despite my lobbying, no one agreed with me.
I told Sam that’s why we can’t have children. We don’t agree on this in the least. Sam says he chose to ignore reality but I don’t know how you can. I guess he doesn’t understand me and never really did. I think he has affairs in the Simulation. Lately, he’s been spending more and more time in the Simulation than he does with me. To be entirely honest, I don’t even care. Sam’s an idiot.
I don’t know why I agreed to unionize with him. Even when we were younger, I knew we weren’t truly compatible no matter what the Oracle said. I met him in the Simulation but I told him I needed to meet him in reality too. I told him that’s where I wanted to live our lives. I don’t know if he didn’t believe me or maybe he thought I was joking about living our whole lives in reality but 10 years later we hardly speak to each other at all. He’d rather be in the Simulation and I stopped caring a long time ago. We fulfill our union requirements of cohabitation and contributions but we live in separate worlds entirely.
Click Here for Part 2.